Yesterday, I had my first meeting with my mentor to discuss the first chapters of my current project. I haven’t been writing much these last couple of days since I’ve been preparing for a visit from my friends from out of town and because I’ve been feeling kind of stuck writing this book. But my discussion with my mentor helped give me the boost that I needed to continue.
I’ve been writing for more than half of my life and despite having ten short years behind a notebook, I still get insecure about my books and how good they actually are. So often, I read over what I write and I think it sounds bad; the wording is stiff, it doesn’t flow, all the characters sound the same. I psych myself out and think this could never be published, no one is ever going to want to read this.
My current project, titled Count Me In, I’ve been working on for years. It’s been a cycle of excitement and enthusiastic writing and being bored with the characters, plot, and setting because of a lack of originality, overreading, and overediting. These thoughts aren’t just particular to this book. I’ve felt this way about almost everything I’ve written (including the book that I’ve finished and am trying to get published).
But yesterday, my mentor helped me quell these insecurities and fears. He read and left notes on my first chapter, the majority of which were praise. He complimented my voice, an aspect of my writing that I always thought was my weak link. He called it authentic, saying it sounded like something a fifteen-year-old girl would really say. It was also unique and fitting for the character. He thought my mood and tone and setting were great. And he loved my details (the one aspect of writing fiction I know I do well). The best thing he said was that my first chapter was written so well. He has independent studies with students who write novels, and often their first chapters are like “untangling a thousand coat hangers”. But mine wasn’t. He was engaged and emersed in the story from the first line.
This was all so reassuring as I move back into writing this book. And after our hour and a half Skype conversation, I realized that I kind of always needed a mentor. Of course, I’ve had friends read various parts and chapters of various books and I’m grateful for their support when I shoved stacks of pages in their faces. Usually, their comments are complimentary, telling me they like the way this character dresses or how that one is described. They like the story, the plot twist, the story mom sounds like their mom. Their feedback is encouraging. But feedback feels different coming from someone who has published a book, someone who has worked with other authors, who helps people write their books.
I know this isn’t anything profound, and it’s been proven, and people have definitely said it before: but everyone should have a mentor. Not necessarily for writing, not necessarily for your job, but just something that you’re passionate about. Having someone guide you when you’re feeling lost, having someone help you fix mistakes, having someone encourage you is invaluable. Honestly, I don’t know how I went ten years without having a mentor. He made me promise that when my book gets published, when I become a rich and famous author, that I’ll come back and speak to his class. I think that’s the least I could do.